Tales of a Three Legged Tour

March 17th 2017

 

On January 14th, I stepped onto the stage of the Dave Dunnett Theatre in Oak Bay, Victoria to start a three month tour, performing the new songs from Every Soul’s A Sailor. Playing an album’s worth of brand new songs is daunting, but this was also my first show in my new hometown (I moved to Victoria with my wife and daughter in July 2015) and, well… first impressions etc. etc. So I was feeling a certain amount of pressure to live up to the hype and make something special happen. I honestly don’t recall much about that show, some of the songs fluttered a bit, but mostly they flew and at the end of the night I took a bow in front of a sold-out-to-the rafters crowd and felt like I had started something good.

A week later with flu and fever raging through my home, I flew from Victoria to Toronto and then caught a red-eye to Amsterdam to start my tour of The Netherlands, Germany and Belgium. There are so many highlights from that leg that it’s difficult to remember it all. Even that first night, when I arrived in Amsterdam without any of my luggage or gear (it didn’t make the close connection in Toronto) was special as Luciano and Sandra (my Dutch promoters) took me to La Vallade  (highly recommended) for an exquisite meal and copious bottles of wine to help me overcome my jetlag (worked like a charm!)

Next morning we drove through the mist into Rotterdam, for a live radio recording using Sandra’s guitar (praying that my gear would make it to the gig that night). I was immediately struck by the architecture in Rotterdam – a port town, it was heavily bombed during the war and rebuilt with modern flourishes and a flair that reminded me of Liverpool. The Radio show was startling in how much time I was given, the great equipment and the respect I received as a visiting artist. Here’s a picture of the show script showing the tunes I played. You can listen to the show by following this link.

As soon as I’d approved the playback (sounded dandy), we loaded up and headed out in the van that would be home for the next two weeks – Sandra driving, Luciano playing DJ with his iPod and a large Bluetooth speaker balanced on the dashboard.

 

The gig that night was part of The Blueroom Sessions at Clubzaal in Den Bosch, a lovely club with a great crowd and a fair indicator of what the rest of the tour would be like – decent attendance with the occasional sell-out, listening audiences who want to talk after the show, know my back catalogue and line up to buy the new one!

After that show it all becomes a bit of a blurSandra driving the van down long straight roads between the ever-present canals and drainage ditches with Luciano dishing up a wonderfully eclectic menu of music including (what I came to recognise as his occasional wild-card, something out of left field, like Barry Manilow singing a moving, heartfelt version of Mandy) peppered with everything from Sinatra to Slade. I performed in a 14th Century chapel in Nijmegen that was so vast a space, that the notes would hang in the air as I sang them and create chords on their own. A house concert in Germany where the flu finally got to me and I wondered if I would get through the set without barfing (I did!) but had to decline the late-night feast set out in our honour at Willhelm and Heike’s house up the road (sorry guys). Another  German gig, The Wunderbar in Eppstein at an old train station across the valley from an 11th Century Schloss /castle (again, great crowds, great response, great CD sales). The list of gigs is probably still up on my website, but though I instagrammed and Facebooked to the best of my ability (Wifi permitting), it really did become a blur as I sat in the back of the van watching the scenery go by… ahh the scenery! It reminded me of driving through the prairies (flat) but with water everywhere. Everybody knows that most of The Netherlands is below sea level, but that doesn’t really register until you are there and slowly come to grips with the fact  that almost everywhere you go there is water, canals, drainage ditches, lagoons and the ocean. I still don’t understand how their basements, underground parking etc. etc stays dry. I have battled floods after heavy rain in NS and wish I had some of that Dutch know-how.

One of the most memorable shows was in Friesland at an old hunting lodge. The gig itself was lovely and followed by the usual post-show get together where everybody (out of courtesy to me) carried on the conversation in English… they all speak English quite fluently, and German  and… (as an Anglophone who speaks almost no French from a so-called bi-lingual country, I felt like an idiot in their company). So the gig was the usual delight, but what really stuck with me, was the drive back to Amsterdam the next day, where we took the highway that travels along a 32km stretch of dyke built in the late 1800’s. Imagine the technology they had back then, steam shovels and barges and elbow grease… an astounding achievement and the brainchild of one Cornelius Lely who’s vision to span The Zuider Zee must have seemed completely crazy at the time, but… they did it! If you ever get the chance to drive this stretch of road, take it and be sure to stop at the little café in the middle where you can watch old B&W white footage of the construction whilst eating a great lunch.

I did get to do some sightseeing,with a few days off in Amsterdam, where I wandered through the Van Gogh Museum and The Rijksmuseum coming face to face with Sunflowers and Rembrandts…. simply stunning. I spent hours dodging stoned tourists eating fries, laughing and falling all over themselves. I wandered the canals just soaking it up, until my feet ached and I had to stop for coffee. An astounding city full of art and architecture, crime and passion in a country that walks the line between full on liberalism and staunch conservatism with every single step, amazing.

On another memorable day, I played a gig in The Haag and with time on our hands, we visited The Escher Museum in one of the old Royal Palaces. Like many people, I am familiar with Escher’s prints from college dorms and friend’s apartments back in the day, when I was a young musician staying up late, smoking twigs ‘n seeds and discussing  humankind and the universe, whilst staring at those crazy Eshcer staircases going nowhere and the snakes that become butterflies… but I was not familiar with  the breath-taking pen and ink landscapes that hung in this museum. Better still, the staff were happy to let us take pictures.

And so the days went by with the repetition of eat/drive/play/sleep as the tour slowly became one journey, rather than a series of specific event. 

There was the daytime radio show I did in Holland, which was held at a local café. The celebrity being interviewed before me…. was a dog, I was careful not to use the same mic. Shades of Spinal Tap and the puppet show marquee.

 

Before I was really aware of it, I had played twelve shows and was back at Schiphol Airport watching the fleet of Tesla Taxis circling whilst I waited to board my flight to Heathrow and the next leg of the tour. After being chauffeured around The Netherlands, this would be a return to my usual DIY mode of touring and I must admit, some much needed solitude. I’ve spent most of my life touring alone and… I like it!

 

The first gig was at The Edinburgh Folk Club and  sold out. Yes, it was a relief to be back in a country where English is the first language and to be among the Scots? Even better. A lot of laughter and banter with the audience that night and after the show, some great craic at The Sandy Bell (the birthplace of the contemporary Scottish folk scene I’m told) –  great company, pies and pints. Edinburgh is a crazy city built on top of itself it seems and clearly a strong influence on JK Rowling’s esthetic for Hogwarts, as I found out the next day when, with a few hours off, I stumbled upon the Greyfriars Cemetery in the heart of the city. Apparently Rowling, who wrote her early drafts nearby, spent quite a bit of time in Greyfriars and took several character’s names from some of the headstones. The cememtery boasts many tombs and a lot of them built into the surrounding walls, which means that the restaurants, houses and businesses on the other side of those walls, are literally separated by a foot of limestone, if that. Ghosts abound and the veil between the living and the dead is very thin indeed. With great reluctance, I got in my overly complicated rental car and hit the road for Eyemouth (named because it is situated at the mouth of the river Eye (of course!)

Eyemouth is on the border lands on the Scottish east coast. A used-to-be bustling fishing village with a rich history and many stories – it’s proximity ensured that all sorts of smuggling went on back in the day. I played a small show at a venue situated in an old seaman’s mission hall and slept like a baby that night as the wind and the waves fought in the harbour outside my window.

TBC…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks Errol Nazareth & Metro Morning!

January 20th 2017

It was great to wake up yesterday and see a bunch of social media posts from people in Toronto who heard Errol Nazareth’s segment about Every Soul’s a Sailor on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning with Matt Galloway. Click below to hear Errol’s review and some clips of the new tracks.

Release Day! Every Soul’s A Sailor

January 10th 2017

January 10, 2017 

 

Today’s the day, the start of another chapter, the day when my new record – Every Soul’s A Sailor – goes out into the big wide world dewy eyed and alone (hopefully sending the occasional postcard home). I will continue to support it, sign it and sing it, but as of today it is up and running and out of my hands. Coincidentally, in two days I turn 54 and for the life of me I can’t figure where all the time has gone. I’m lucky to have found this path of music (and plan on many more years walking it until the big hook), but as with every new beginning, there is a moment of looking back and over the past 30 years I’ve put out a slew of record on my own and with various ensembles, each one marking a time and place for me; a series of collage/snapshots from the past; each one a scrapbook of sorts. I’m proud to add this latest recording to the pile.

One thing I love about writing songs is that even though I created them, or more correctly – enticed the idea onto the page; even though I chose each word and melodic phrase, stitching them together in the dark realm of the night owl; even so, I learn more about the songs as I sing them. On any given night, in front of the crowd, I hear (like you) something in the songs that is new to me. It’s a weird kind of magic that never fails to amaze and delight me and is one of the things that keeps me coming back again and again to fumble around in the dark for a new song. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have enjoyed wrestling them onto disc.

To preview the new tracks or buy
Every Soul’s a Sailor, click here.


This record
differs from previous ones in that early on, before sitting down to write the songs, I decided that I wanted to record them with a trio and so when I sat down to write them, I kept that idea in the room with me. Many of the songs were written on my Telecaster (in the past I’ve always written on my Manzer acoustic) and as I they came to me, I tried to hear them fleshed out with bass and drums. When it came time to record, that’s exactly what we did and as I begin to tour, I will be playing them with the trio as much as possible. For more details on the actual recording click this link.

For more details on my touring schedule (I will need a new suitcase at the end of this next round) go here

The Songs

With the advent of the compact disc (back in the mists of time) there was a feeling that recording artistsimg_8132 were somehow obliged to use all the space available on the new CD format (approximately 74 minutes of music as opposed to the old vinyl LP format which was more like 45 minutes, depending on how the tracks were mastered) and so began the era of “extra tracks” and later on, overly-long recordings with lots of “filler” tracks, that the old vinyl-era artists would probably have  left on the studio floor, or released a “double album”. I know from personal experience that it is difficult to discard songs from a recording when you are not bound by the time restrictions of vinyl.

For Every Soul’s A Sailor I was determined to write a batch of songs and only choose the best 10 tunes for the album. I wanted to adhere to the old limitations (which still seems like a good arbiter of how long an album should run). In the end I recorded all the songs I had written for this album and resisted the urge to add any covers or other material that had been knocking about, I stuck with the tunes I wrote.

What follows is a short description of what I was thinking/feeling when I wrote these songs. I am leery of “explaining” the songs at all (because it’s really what you hear in them that is important) however…

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is – Old money, white money, colonial money, IMG_2058male money… privilege and greed… money can’t by you love, you can’t take it with you and it won’t save you from those dark nights where you wonder if you should have  spent your energies growing something more profound than an obscene bank account. (I am thrilled to have Rose Cousins as  guest  vocalist on this tune. I have admired Rose as a writer and singer for a great many years and living on The East Coast for 8 years meant that our paths crossed, if not as often as I would have liked).

Red Lights In The Rain – I’ve always been intrigued by the road song, not just the traveling aspect, but the sense of letting go, leaving, even turning your back, but always moving on. Like so many songs that I admire, this one started out with a title and grew from there. (Rose Cousins is once again, the guest vocalist on this tune, bringing a vocal purity and longing to the tune that adds immeasurably)

Blowhard Nation – As a spectator of Donald Trump’s con-man campaign of hate and fear, ‘Blowhard bhn-artwork-small-fileNation’ came from a place of sarcastic outrage and ended up a Merle Haggard-inspired roots rock anthem. My desire to write the song came from an instinctual reaction to the politics of hate and grew into a desire to express my belief that voting for Trump or Brexit or The National Front is voting for bedlam. On the surface, these candidates may appear to scratch the itch that has driven you crazy, but in the end they will claw you to death and steal your humanity.

The Things We Did – Tom Allen came by my house in Halifax with a lyric centered around the idea of “Who writes the obituary for the obituary writer?”. On the way to writing  that song, we realised that we were also penning an obituary for the small town newspaper.

Gone But Not Forgotten – it’s been eight years since my friend and mentor Willie P. Bennett passed on, Tom Wilson still owns Willie’s old Gibson J45 and I think of him whenever I pick it up and strum a chord… so many giants have passed on recently,  leaving the essence of their spirit in between the lines and in the keystone of The Tower of Song.

Love The Deal – The only valid reason to be in the business of music is for the music itself, (there are tens of dollars to be made in this business folks). Making a living as an artist is definitely not for the faint of heart and there is no such williepbennettthing as “fair”, so why waste your time worrying about things that you simply can’t control, like success or failure?

Carousel – The fear of being creatively irrelevant or redundant can cripple an artist and no matter how brilliant one is or was, there will always be a time when you feel that the scene has passed you by, until you understand that the only path forward is to pursue the work purely for the joy of doing it.

Love Like Water – Like many songs on this record, Love Like Water started with a guitar riff which grew into a chorus, which suggested the phrase itself, after that it was a matter of staying calm, being patient and waiting for the rest of the song to arrive.

Better Than Good – My wife gave me a framed  print in our early days together which said, “We Are So Good Together”.

Every Soul’s A Sailor – I don’t know where this phrase came from, perhaps it’s a riff on Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne (And Jesus was a sailor when he walked upon the water… and when he knew for certain only drowning men could see him he said all men will be sailors then until the sea shall free them…) or it may have just been the melody suggested by my guitar, but certainly the imagery and sentiments in the song resonate with the west coast, where the deep swell of the Pacific under a sky full of stars becomes a metaphor for this life, this journey.img_3137I sincerely hope you find something good and true in this collection and look forward to hearing from you over the wires and in person. Please stay in touch and as always, thanks for listening.

=SF=

The ‘Every Soul’s a Sailor’ pre-sale is live!

November 22nd 2016

CLICK THE ALBUM COVER TO GET ALL THE DETAILS.

Every Soul's a Sailor

Almost ready

November 7th 2016

New Music Coming

Blowhard Nation – New single coming Sept.19th

September 18th 2016

Phtographer: Mark MaryanovichFriends, I’m happy to tell you that Blowhard Nation, the first single off my new album (Every Soul’s a Sailor coming January 2017) is launching with media across Canada on Monday, September 19th. It’s a roots-rock anthem inspired by my outrage over Donald Trump’s con-man campaign of hate and fear.

The song will be available on CD Baby and I’m donating all of my proceeds from the single to War Child , a charity serving the very people Trump wants to turn away from a life of health, education, and safety.

img_2197Why release the single so far ahead of the album?

Like most Canadians, I’ve been listening to Trump’s campaign of lies, half-truths, and fear-mongering. There’s this willingness to speak what’s been considered unacceptable in a presidential candidate up ‘til now. It has brought some of the most bigoted and ignorant people into the light of day, making strange bedfellows with a large mass of the US population who are generally disgusted with politicians and the political machine in general. It’s illuminating to see how Trump’s message has made some truly vile people feel safe enough to come out into the open, teeth bared.

My desire to write this song came from an instinctual reaction to the politics of hate and grew into a desire to spell out my feelings that voting for Trump or Brexit or The National Front is voting for bedlam. On the surface, these candidates may appear to scratch the itch that has driven you crazy but in the end, they will claw you to death.

“In the United States I have always believed that there was a big difference between Conservative and stupid. Boy is it getting harder to prove that one by the minute.” ~Rick Mercer

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